Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Don't Answer, It's Death Knocking


Let's pretend you had the opportunity to look through a peephole and see how and when you were going to die, would you??



If you had have asked me that question before July 17th, 2006, I would have boldly said, "yes" and without even the slightest hesitation. So, why did that very date change my answer? Well, that was the day that I was given that particular opportunity and I wish I had never taken it:

I woke up around 7 am that morning to sneak in a quick shower before my 4 day old newborn and 2 year old awoke. I had just gotten home from the hospital the day before and the last 24 hours had worn me completely out. I remember thinking how good it was to finally be back in my own surroundings and the hot steamy water felt so good against my battered and no longer pregnant body. Then, I shivered. How could I be shivering in July in Florida in a very hot shower??? Hmm, weird, but it did not concern me until an ever so slight twinge of pain followed about a minute later. However, I shook it off as nothing and convinced myself that it was normal considering all that I had just been through.
Now, at this point, I must admit that I am a master at hiding pain. I don't know why I feel the need to, but, I do, and, I do it quite well. Therefore, I will RARELY acknowledge or admit it when it is overcoming me, but, that day was different....completely and undeniably different. Remember that shiver and slight twinge I started my day with? Well, they had decided that neither of them were going to be ignored. Nope, they grew stronger and angrier, and, by that afternoon, they had declared an all out war deep inside of me.
The only way I can explain it is like this: Imagine it is a really nice day outside. There is a clear blue sky above you except for one little nonthreatening grey cloud in the distance. It does not seem to be enough to pose a threat to your day, BUT, it seems to have a little determination to hang around just close enough that you can't forget it. Then, that same little grey cloud begins to shift and slowly move closer. The bright sun begins to fade until there is no recognizable bit of blue sky left. You are totally taken off guard and did not expect this sudden and disappointing change of weather at all. So, you annoyingly begin to watch that cloud and try to determine it's next move.
Suddenly, and to every one's surprise, it begins to slowly twist. That somewhat innocent grey cloud is now darker and moving! A slight turn and another twist! Then, it slyly repeats itself,
but, it is clearly getting faster and bigger. Could anyone have predicted that this bright and peaceful sky would have been attacked and overpowered by a tornado? No. No one, not even me, could have forecast this....That build up of pain and fear I was feeling over a period of a few short hours was more than I had EVER experienced before or since then.
So, it was time to do something that I rarely do. I had to admit defeat and give in to the silent battle I was fighting and tell someone there was a problem, but, in the end, I didn't even have to. My observant husband knew something was wrong, REALLY REALLY wrong, by the way I was acting.
We rushed into the closest E.R. and my mind began to race. I pulled out every ounce of nursing experience I had in me and searched for an obvious answer as to what was happening to me before the doctor even examined me. Was it my gallbladder? Did he leave something inside of me during the surgery? What was happening to me?
The doctor appeared and he calmly ran a couple of scenarios by us. I remember feeling a little more at ease after meeting him and not seeing an overly concerned reaction from him. I was immediately taken into another area of the hospital for a scan, feeling determined that it was nothing serious. Then, it happened. That unexpected moment when life throws a nasty monkey wrench really hard at you and you NEVER EVER see it coming.
That routine scan became the star of the show. It smugly announced itself to us as my "peephole" and that calm doctor's comforting demeanor had changed too.
I very unexpectedly found myself in a situation I could have never imagined. I was helplessly laying there and felt like I was being led by the grim reaper himself to look into that peephole with my name on it.
So, I ask you this one more time. If you could find out before hand, how and when you were going to die, would you want to know? Could you suddenly be prepared to hear very grim words come out of a doctor's mouth and stay composed and focused as your shocked ears relayed an incredibly terrifying message to your brain? A message that chillingly questioned,
"Are you ready, at this exact moment, to find out how you are going to die today?"



Image Credit: http://chaos-continuum.deviantart.com/

Monday, December 14, 2009

Without a Hitch...Then, the Hitch!

So, as the old saying goes, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!"..........
I went through 8 1/2 months of pregnancy with my second child,literally,without a hitch....Then, the hitch!
At 36 weeks, my little one decided he didn't want to come out and turned around. Of course, the medical term for this is "breech" but I just called it pure stubborness. So, my first obstacle, when I was so close to the finish line! Now, many women, I'm sure, would have been happy to be scheduled for a c-section, but, I didn't see it as a convenient way of getting out of that awful workout, known as, labor. I saw it as going under the knife and a longer recovery. I was not thrilled about the decision but I knew the baby wouldn't get out any other way. So, cut me open and get him out!
The night before the c-section, I laid out my favorite maternity mumu and my best flip flops (it was July in Florida) and tried to mentally prepare myself for the surgery while the anxiousness of getting to finally see my baby set in. I awkwardly rolled into bed with the mindset that I wouldn't get much sleep, and, then,"you have got be kidding me!," I thought to my surprise!
BIG HITCH!! Obstacle #2!! This warm sensation running down my leg and all over my sheets can't actually be my water breaking 6 1/2 hours before my scheduled c-section?? Yes, it sure was! I yelled my husband's name, threw on the mumu and flip flops, and shuffled carefully out the door and to the hospital.
The labor & delivery nurses informed me I was 6 hours early. I informed them my water broke. They said, "Oh!" and I was admitted while they called my doctor and I was prepped for the surgery.
About fifteen minutes later, my doctor walked in. I could tell by the way that half his hair was standing up on the side of his head that he had just rolled out of bed and he smurked at me and said, "Well, I picked the right day just the wrong time!"
One easy pregnancy, one stubborn and breech baby, and a wacky night of going into labor and getting a c-section to get to the finish line. It was quite a journey, but, well worth it when that sweet boy let out his first cry and I was able to see him and kiss his little forehead.
He was 9 lbs 5 oz and perfect.....
I had a permanent but beautiful battle scar to mark his incredible arrival.....
My proud husband had another child that looked just like him.....
My oldest son made the transition from the baby to the big brother.....
Our lives had all changed and our new baby's had only just begun. It was another amazing moment for all of us.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Congratulations....It's a Boy!" (Again)

I must admit I have always been a little leery of the unknown. I was never totally at ease with either of my pregnancies until the ultrasound phase. For my husband, it was the ultimate moment of finding out if we were having a boy or a girl. For me, however, it was a piece of mind hearing that there was one head, two arms, two legs and all of the organs were where they were supposed to be. Either way, it was just as exciting the second time around finding out that the baby was healthy, and, oh yes, the "congratulations...it's a boy!" (again)
So, fate had spoken and our baby boy at home was about to become a big brother to our next son. Immediately, the visions of frilly dresses and tea parties went out the window and we chattered about our inevitable future of them wrestling and breaking things, tossing the ball in the yard, riding four wheelers, and, being mommy's boys! We were also happy that they were going to be 26 months apart and close enough in age to live out adventures together.
"Two boys!" I spent the remainder of my pregnancy repeating those two words with lots of enthusiasm and a little disbelief. I had come from a family of all girls, so, having boys was going a be a new experience for me, but, I loved and embraced the idea. Life was good and only getting better and we were truly blessed!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A True Moment of Thanks



So, the holidays are upon us once again and I am seeing plenty of posts about the many things we are all thankful for. For me, it is the obvious choices I think we all share for Thanksgiving....the love of family and close friends, the satisfaction we feel after a wonderful meal and the comfort of knowing we live in a country where we can express the things we are thankful for in the safety of our own homes.
Thanksgiving takes me back to a moment I will always treasure. No, not the first time I saw the Macy's Day Parade on TV (although it was spectacular) or the year my parents forgot to turn the oven on and we realized hours later that there was no smell of turkey lingering from the kitchen (True Story!) My special Thanksgiving memory occurred four years ago when we were headed to Washington D.C. to meet family for the Thanksgiving holiday.
It was the typical last minute rush of trying to pack and keep our 18 month old son out of the luggage but I was too distracted to continue. My thoughts kept drifting all the way to the back of my head and pulling out the same question I had planned on answering when I returned from our trip. However, I admit, I am infamous for picking inopportune times to deal with things (like getting ready to walk out the door to catch a plane), but, there are some questions that just seem to stop you dead in your tracks no matter what is going on, and, this was one of them!....... Am I pregnant??
I remember thinking the month before when I booked the trip that I was not looking forward to having my "period" when I was on vacation. Yes, for the men who may end up reading this, I did say "period" and women do think about it when they make plans to do something or go somewhere. Even though, I was not that "late" and had to get to D.C., it would be well worth it to take a test and put my mind at ease so I wouldn't be distracted for the rest of my trip. Yep, bags packed, toddler running wild, impatient husband staring at me, and I was peeing on the stick! I was expecting a torturous minute of waiting but it immediately turned positive (maybe it knew I didn't have a lot of time to wait?? If so, I appreciated it for being so courteous) and I, or we, were pregnant once again!
I had mentioned before the rush of emotions that go through you when you are face to face with a positive pregnancy test, and, this time was no different, except, I had been through it once before. Oh, the swollen feet, throwing up, carrying around all that extra baggage, but, wasn't it well worth it for that cute and precious little one you receive in the end?
So, that Thanksgiving I had an exciting announcement to make to our family that I was truly thankful for. I was grateful to be surrounded by my husband, our son, and our relatives in our nation's capital and blessed to know that I had another addition to our family growing inside of me. That feeling of appreciation and completeness and the gift to express it is what Thanksgiving means to me and that year will always be my reminder of a true moment of thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Image Credit: Custom Metal Art entitled "Giving Thanks" from http://www.wizardsofmetal.com/Western_Main.html



Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Juggling Act


This entry is called, "The Juggling Act," and, I am sure, in some way, all of us have had to do it: The exhausting and difficult task of trying to balance work and family..........

I got a slight taste of it when I was pregnant with my son. My male boss, married but no children, was courteous enough about it in the beginning, BUT, I could see the looks forming on his face and his tone changing towards me as my pregnancy became much more obvious.
Then, the never ending questions began: When is the baby due? How long are you going to be gone? Are you definitely coming back? How often are all of these doctors appointments going to be? Now, don't get me wrong, I did expect most of them, but, what I didn't expect was the lack of "congratulations" or a "how are you feeling?" to come out of his mouth every once in awhile. Instead, it was just the constant insinuation that I had not picked a good time for this as our construction company was running at a ridiculously fast pace.
The housing boom in Florida during 2003-2004 was in full effect. EVERYONE was qualifying for loans, house flippers were scooping up enormous amounts of properties and making unbelievable profits, and sunny Florida was where they wanted to buy, and, oh how they did! The owner of our company was a "in it to win it" kind of guy and it was hard to keep up with the number of contracts that were flooding though our doors.
Finally, when I was 7 months pregnant, my prayers were answered and a "temp" was hired to help me and replace me in my absence. It was hard to train her in such a short time, and, I also had to make sure that I didn't scare her away. I don't know why, but, she stayed AND did a great job, so, that became one less thing for me to worry about.
However, my busy mind began to shift to many other thoughts:
How bad was it going to feel to push a human being through my you know what!?! What a downright cruel concept!
Why had we outgrown our "starter" home so fast and how I was dreading the fact that we had to join the feeding frenzy going on in the real estate market at that time.
Then, there was the sobering reality that little voice in the back of my head kept whispering to me...."Don't even think about staying home with the baby permanently. You know you can't live off of one salary these days!"

My constant thoughts were finally side tracked when the big day arrived. The funny thing about babies, though, is they don't care if the time is right or not, they are coming out regardless! So, he was born two weeks early and I was on maternity leave for 12 weeks!
Ah, 12 wonderful weeks away from work, right? NOT. I had a newborn, so, the around the clock feedings and care began, our starter house sold the day after I had him and we had to find a new one pronto, and, because the work load was so high, I stupidly agreed to work part time from home during the midst of all the chaos. My life consisted of two steady sounds for the next three months: The baby crying and the fax machine squealing from all of the incoming work.
There was a silver lining in all of this, though. Once my hormones started to balance a little more and we had mastered the art of switching off nights so we weren't both exhausted, it became more manageable to work and look for a house.
We were lucky to find a bigger house in the area we wanted to live in and we settled in nicely before I had to go back to the office. My wonderful mother in law had agreed to keep the baby while I worked and everything had seemed to have fallen into place.
So, I returned to my job with a positive attitude, but, the fierce juggling act began! The baby had to come first and my previous willingness for overextending myself beyond my designated work hours had changed. Regardless, if an impromptu meeting was called, or if the phone was ringing, or if someone without an appointment wandered through my door at the end of the day, I had a baby to get home to.
Suddenly, I was automatically thrown into another category there, the working mother, and it became immediately obvious that it was not the most tolerant place for employees with too many outside commitments. However, I juggled it. Faxes, emails, meetings, sleepless nights, doctor's appointments, making the bottles, running out at lunch for diapers, I did it all and I learned two valuable lessons through all of it:
It is not only important but vital to feel a sense of support and appreciation from both home and work when you are trying to juggle your responsibilities to each of them. I am sure there are many companies that are more tolerant and understanding to the struggles of working parents. Unfortunately, mine was not one of them, and, my juggling act there went on for many more years and NEVER got any easier or appreciated in any way.
Secondly, I have the deepest respect and admiration for every single working parent out there. The difficult necessity of providing for your family while trying to not miss out on too much of your children's everyday happenings is quite a constant yet rewarding challenge.

Image Credit: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/career_and_jobs/secretarial/article3618889.ece

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

First Born Blessing



















I have always compared motherhood to that saying about "...wearing your heart on your sleeve." You suddenly cannot hide your feelings and start expressing all of your emotions so much more freely and openly for the entire world to see as you witness and react to your child's many experiences.
The whole amazing journey of conception, pregnancy, labor, and birth for the first time is somewhat overwhelming and indescribable, but, the emotions of motherhood and what that little person brings into your life is something that you could easily never stop talking about. I swore to never become so consumed by motherhood that I lost sight of myself and had nothing else to express, but, when I held my own little miracle, he tugged at my heart so strongly and I was instantly smitten, and, have been ever since that first encounter.
So, yes, I have joined the ranks of proud mothers everywhere who never miss a photo opportunity, love peeking in late at night and watching them sleep, and realizes there is nothing more endearing than hearing them call me, "Mommy."
I have also learned from him over the years that it is irrelevant whether he is 5 months or 5 years old or even 55, for that matter! He will always be my precious baby boy and I am truly blessed and honored to be his mother and I would like to finish this entry by sharing a special poem with you about a first born child.
This poem, I received at my baby shower from my mother, is something that I proudly display in my home and I have read it often before and throughout his life and it has become a heartfelt blessing from me to my precious first child as I watch him grow a little more each day:

Our First Child - by J. Morse

Oh how we planned and waited
For the moment of your birth
Of all our little miracles
You were the very first

The first to hold, to raise, to love
And fill our days with fun
From your first tooth to your first steps
We counted memories one by one

The years passed by so quickly
And soon we realized
Dear first born, you were growing up
Right before our eyes

We have cherished every moment
And we wanted you to know
You have brought real joy into our lives
And we love you so



Image Credit: I also received this beautiful statue entitled, "New Life," from my sister in law after my son's birth and it is part of the Willow Tree Collection by a very talented sculptor named Susan Lordi. I remember that feeling of completeness my husband and I shared as we gazed upon our newborn son.
Since then, I have become a huge fan of this artist and have collected some more of her sculptures which all have a tender and embracing quality as much as this one, but, this piece will always be the one I will cherish the most.
http://willowtree.info/products

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ten Fingers, Ten Toes and Chubby Cheeks!

If you have not been faced with this image before, pretend you are holding this stick and this response is boldly staring back at you and hollering, "Uh huh, that's right! You are definitely pregnant!" This test result can cause an absolute whirlwind of emotions you never even knew you had!!!!
This was the image I saw approximately 2 months after our wedding, and, even though, I fully understood it was possible, since we decided to start "trying" right away, it still shocked the hell out of me that it had happened so fast! I honestly felt like laughing and crying, and, I am pretty sure I did a little bit of both, especially, when I saw the mixture of excitement and terror on my new husband's face after I delivered the whopping news.

I was the ripe old age of 31 when I got married and was, somewhat, considered an old maid by several family members. I saw it differently. Marriage was not something I took lightly and I wanted to take my time and choose wisely, no matter how long it took. I had always wanted children, but, I never acted impulsively, and, was committed to never settling. So, it took me, maybe, a little while longer than others by their standards! So what!?! It wasn't a contest, right? My delay in marriage obviously did not effect my ability to get pregnant, and, we were suddenly expecting our first little bundle of joy.
So, our honeymoon feeling was short lived and my new husband spent the next long nine months watching me rapidly grow. I was huge and quickly ballooned so much that we had both started to panic about what I was giving birth to! I knew there was only one child in there, but, I gained a whopping 45 lbs and, literally, felt like a beach ball with legs. If it was possible to just tuck them in and roll me everywhere for the last three months of my pregnancy, I would have greatly welcomed it. I tried to enjoy this amazing transformation but it was hard to see beyond the vomiting and swollen ankles, and, oh yes, that ginormous belly of mine.
Despite the discomfort and awkwardness of my pregnancy, I always had an overwhelming joy everytime I thought about becoming a mother and that we were getting ready to welcome our baby, a part of both of us, into our family. So, when the day arrived, I was truly ready to start the process, no matter how painful, and, finally meet our child.
I was blessed with a quick delivery for a first child, as I was told by many, and it took six hours of labor, many pushes, and an episiotomy to get him out. There were several moments when I felt like I was trying to squeeze a bowling ball through a straw, so, it made sense to me when they plopped my rather large baby onto the scale and he weighed in at 9 lbs 2 oz.
He was big and it was difficult, but, he was absolutely beautiful and I was so proud of him and myself for getting him here! Ten fingers, ten toes, and chubby cheeks! He instantly won our hearts and our praises. Unfortunately, for me, the joy was short lived, as I started to heavily bleed and quickly lose strength.
My doctor and his nursing team swarmed around me with their concerned faces and the feeling of the room suddenly switched from celebration to concern as I began to hemorrhage. After a few nerve rattling minutes, he was able to control the bleeding and correct the problem, known as uterine atony, and bring me back to my joyous state.
So, if you have nine lives like a cat, I was stripped of one of them that day, but, I made it! This "old maid" got the right guy, had a big and beautiful baby boy, and dodged a potentially dangerous situation! It was quite a year and I didn't expect the rest of my life to be any different from that point on! I had grown accustomed to the fact that, sometimes, things don't come easy, but, how you truly appreciate them even more when you have to work a little harder for them!

Image credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pregnancy_test_result.jpg

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Princess for a Day

"I showed the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed." - Norman Rockwell

Whether it is sitting close and sharing a sunset with someone special or being brave enough to speak up and take a stand in what you believe; tucking your young and sweet child into bed at night or the build up and overwhelming disappointment you succumb to after losing an election; getting caught in the act doing something you were specifically told not to do or being part of a loving family gathered at the table to eat well and give thanks, Norman Rockwell was there. There are over 4,000 images he created to document the emotions and events of our everyday lives. He took American culture and turned it into a visual journey full of innocence, angst, surprise, anticipation, respect, joy, discovery, turmoil, hope, love and every other emotion you can think of. He used every brush stroke to drawn in all of our senses so each scenario he depicted is still vividly recognizable.

This delightful image of a young woman gazing into the mirror as she imagines herself in that dress is my recognizable moment. I was full of the same anticipation and awe by the thought of being able to slip on my dream dress and feel like a princess for a day. My royal moment happened on July 23, 2003, my wedding day. It had taken me a long time in my life to get to that wonderful and magical moment. I was never much of a dater and always chose to be in relationships. I had my share of flat out failures and plenty of the "what was I thinking?" moments, but, I finally had a relationship I could stick with. He came along at a time when I was turning a new leaf and his presence always gave me a sense of encouragement and praise. We grew together as people and our love was a never ending source of comfort and joy in my life. So, when he proposed a couple of years into our relationship, I did not give him the typical "yes" or "no" answer. I punched him and said, "It's about time!"

My mother is from a charming village in Northern Ireland. It was a place where I had spent many wonderful summers making memories with our large extended family. It was also where we had decided to lay my father, and, someday, my mother to rest. So, we toyed with the notion of getting married in the old chapel where my mother sang in the choir as a child and it was situated next to the graveyard where we had buried my father. Could we make it happen all the way from Florida? Yes, but, since we had decided to get married overseas, the year leading up to the wedding was full of stress for me.
I had flown over to Ireland by myself about 9 months prior to the big day to make ALL of the selections for our wedding. I had five days to meet the pastor and get permission to use the church and bring in my own priest, find a reception site, pick the menu, pick flowers, hire the photographer, choose the entertainment, order the cake and the list goes on..... Anyone who knows me well (and I partly blame it on being a Libra) knows that I am extremely indecisive. Luckily, I had the incredible support of my very patient cousin and his nurturing wife to literally hand hold me through this very stressful process. I left feeling proud of myself and my choices but lost most of my courage as we got closer to the date.
When we landed in Ireland nine months later and a couple of days before the wedding, we had to hit the ground running. Not only was I battling a different time zone that I was not used to, we had family and guests flying in, deposits to pay, hair appointments to make, and (DEEP BREATH) hoping that I still liked everything that I had chosen and suddenly had a bad case of amnesia about. The night before, I was suddenly terrified. I laid there staring at the ceiling and my heart pounded inside my chest. It was my first and only real case of wedding jitters. Would I look good in my dress? Was it going to rain? What was he (my groom to be) thinking about right now?
So, you are probably wondering when I am going to get to this magical moment I had. It literally happened when I walked through the chapel's grand double doors and down the aisle adorned with small bouquets of fragrant flowers decorated with little American and Irish flags. My mother's arm intertwined in mine was strong and supportive, my Calla Lily bouquet bound together with shiny silver ribbon was breathtaking, the princess style wedding gown fit fine, the handsome and beautiful bridal party were a comforting sight, the audience filled with dear friends and loved ones were smiling and welcoming me into my moment, and, most of all, I could see and feel the joy in my soon to be husband’s face. It was everything I had hoped for, except, the feelings were even more intense than I could have ever imagined. It was another Norman Rockwell moment.
After the ceremony, we paid our respects to my father and laid a bouquet of flowers from the wedding on top of his grave. I knew his spirit was with me. There was even an ongoing mention of him as many joked that he kept the typical rain away for his daughter's big day.
I kept Norman's sentiment with me and continued to observe every single glorious sight, smell, and feel of our special event for the rest of the day as I was graciously treated like a princess. As we drove away from the chapel in a beautiful pale blue and silver vintage Rolls Royce past the rolling green mountains (a big deal for a girl from Florida), I captured every detail of my fairytale moment in my head. The crisp July air and the smell of the salty sea, the feeling of all of those undercover layers of crinoline rubbing my legs and sticking to my stockings, the overwhelming completeness that I was feeling. I remained so quiet (which is rare for me in moments like these) that my new husband asked me, “What’s wrong?” and I clearly remember saying “Nothing. I am just taking it all in and I don’t want to ever forget any of this.”

So, today I am offering this little bit of advice in the spirit of Norman Rockwell - Take the time to not only realize but to completely capture a memory when you are having a truly amazing moment.



Image Credit: Prom Dress by Norman Rockwell

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Day America Changed Forever

I cannot go through my life and skip past this date without some recognition: September 11, 2001. Need I say more? It was the day that America, and, life as we knew it, changed forever:
Everyone has dates that stand out in their minds for one reason or another, but, this date is a day we all share. It connects every single one of us together. We all wear it on our faces and our thoughts or words cannot escape it every year. September 11, 2001 marks the day that an evil force slipped through our security and unleashed the most hateful and largest massacre from a foreign enemy on our sacred soil.
I was not born yet when Kennedy was shot, I barely remember Elvis dying, and, up until this point, the only national event that really impacted me was the Challenger Space Shuttle exploding. So, I will have to say that this event is the "Where were you when...?" question of my existence.

So, where was I when I first heard about the first plane crashing? I was at work at the corporate office for the home builder I told you about in my last entry. It was a typical day and I was in my "hurry up and get it done" mode that I used to slay my stacks upon stacks of purchase orders that I had to issue. The hallway outside my office was busy and I could see a steady blur of coworkers and trade partners whizzing by out of the corner of my eye. Then, it got quiet.....really really quiet... UNUSUALLY quiet. My office was in the rear of the building and I soon noticed that I was the only one around in my section. It was too early to be lunch, but, no people. ANYWHERE. There was one hallway that I did not frequent often, "management row," where the big wigs were. It was a long corridor where the executive assistants, Vice President, Sales Manager, and the President and Owner of our company occupied. My entry level position did not call for me to brush elbows with this crowd much, but, neither did a lot of others that were piling up as far as I could see down that hallway. So, I curiously joined the steady flow of people gravitating towards the biggest office at the end of the hall, although I did not immediately know why.
The only television in our office building was in that big office and the news of the first plane crashing was blaring out into all of our surprised ears. Most were listening and some were talking quietly among themselves, then, we were nicely nudged to get back to work after we shared some initial reactions. It seemed like a tragic accident, nothing more and nothing less.
So, I returned to my desk, and, by this time, my radio station had discontinued the music and a steady flow of news was streaming through my speakers, for the rest of the morning, as I tried to return to my workload. When the news of the other crashes started flooding the airways, it quickly became evident that this was not an accident. Our beloved nation was under attack. It became impossible to concentrate on anything else as each report elevated more emotions in all of us, and, that was the only day I can remember when the phone calls, faxes, and loads of paperwork piled up and it didn't matter.
Every September 11th since then, I usually spend all day avoiding the television. This year, I spent the majority of my day doing my impression of Edward Scissor hands in the yard with my clippers. The thought of staying inside and catching a glimpse of any of the original news footage of 9/11, especially the clip of the plane flying into the tower, is always too much for me to bear every year. So, this year, I chose to head outside and I feverishly clipped and chopped at the bushes for hours and caught up on much needed yard work as a productive distraction. Even though, my eyes were spared of those images, my mind raced through most of them all over again anyway. I am going to finish this entry with the same reoccurring thoughts I always have every year:

President Bush was in my town that day! He was sitting in a chair reading to local school children when a man from his team whispered about the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center in his ear. Regardless of how you feel about President Bush, imagine being him at that moment! He was being video taped and having to stay composed in front of all of those little eyes looking up at him while being informed of such news.
Those innocent passengers and flight crew members and what a shitty twist of fate they were all forced to be a part of. They were trapped on those doomed planes carrying out suicide attacks against their will. What were their initial reactions when the hijackers went into action? I think about how horrific their last images and emotions were.
The people inside those towers and at the Pentagon. So many people started their days in ordinary ways, hitting snooze on the alarm clock, grabbing one last cup of coffee before running out the door, kissing their honey goodbye, dropping the kiddies off at school, then, off to work like any other day. They never knew that typical morning they would be killed instantly or end up trapped inside crowded, dark and smoky corridors fighting for their lives in a couple of hours.
How about the heroic battle in mid air between the terrorists and passengers who fought back on Flight 93? What a triumphant moment that could have been, but, it ended in tragedy, like the rest of the planes, except it was maneuvered into a field in Pennsylvania. Where would that plane have ended up and how many more would have perished if those passengers did not get out of their seats and fight back?
My final comment is where did all the loyalty and patriotism go? Every house around town had an American flag raised. We stood together as a nation, bruised, but, not defeated and we mourned our losses and showed a united support for our government and our military as they fought back. Then, slowly, the flags disappeared, Bush's approval ratings tanked, the war is still going on, and, the only time I hear about any of the emotion is on its anniversary. I realize we can't talk about it everyday, but, despite our political views, we must support our military as long as they are still out there and I miss seeing those flags up reflecting our faith and pride.

Last month on 9/11/09, I put up our American flag outside our front entry as a symbol of remembrance and respect for that day 8 years ago. My five year old son asked me, "why I put the flag up?" and I told him, in the most simplest terms so he could understand, that "our flag represents our country" and I put it up that morning "to show others that we were remembering and respecting a day our country and our people were hurt really bad." He asked me "why we couldn't keep it up every day if it was a nice thing to do?" Pretty profound for a five year old! I had no good answer as to why we should take it down , and, I have kept our flag up ever since, which I used as the image.

One final fact to absorb: (as found on Answers.com - http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_people_died_in_the_September_11_2001_attacks)


"In total 3,497 people died in the attacks on 11 September 2001:
2,735 civilians in the World Trade Center died
87 passengers and crew members aboard American Airlines Flight 11 that hit the North Tower
60 passengers and crew aboard United Flight 175 that hit the South Tower
343 New York City firefighters and rescue workers and 23 New York City law enforcement officers, 47 Port Authority workers and 37 Port Authority Police Officers, lost their lives when they rushed in to save the victims in the World Trade Center
36 passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93, who gave their lives stopping four hijackers over Pennsylvania
64 passengers and crew aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon, killing them and 125 people in the building.
In addition -
19 cowards - the terrorists who hijacked four airliners and murdered 3,497 people - also died."

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Land of Sunshine

Ah, Florida....the land of sunshine!
....where bathing beauties frolic on the sandy beaches.

While everyone else is catching colds and shoveling snow, we are down here in sunny Florida playing golf, fishing, or lounging around on the beach swigging that famously sweet and delicious orange juice without a care in the world!

These vintage postcards depicting the tropical paradise Florida has to offer makes me want to crank up Jimmy Buffet and drink a fruity cocktail in my beach chair while I listen to the soothing sounds of the waves rolling in and watch the amazing sun set over the palm trees. Isn't life just grand in Florida!?!

To be honest, living in Florida is more like watching a revolving door spin around all day long than feeling like I am sitting right smack dab in the middle of a tropical paradise! Florida has become a gathering place full of tourists, snowbirds, retirees and transplants migrating here every day to find their American dream. When the economy is good and the hurricane season is quiet, apparently, Florida is the place to be! You can always tell when the perfect balance is happening by watching our real estate market, and, the sound of sales and construction can be heard in every direction.
In the year 2000, after supporting myself with retail and trying to clear my head with art classes, I accepted a job offer with a custom home builder. It was not a national chain but a local company that had a certain prestige and reputation for building extraordinary homes. It was an exciting place to work and it was in the midst of tripling its building expectations when I jumped aboard.
Florida real estate was booming then and I jumped in and caught the right wave just in time! Over the next couple of years, I worked at a feverish pace to keep up with the demand of new homes we were constructing for everyone trying to capture a piece of Florida and the profitable boom going on. I was not happy to see our quaint little circus town turning into a busy city with new construction as far as the eyes could see but it was happening regardless if I was a part of it or not. Our company, like many others, grew from 85 homes to over 400 homes a year. My salary steadily grew and I hungered for every bonus check I earned. It meant I was funding my foundation for my own American dream even more.
With my earnings, I was able to transform my cute little fixer upper into a comfortable space and my boyfriend and I decided it was time to spread our wings and see some more of the world beyond our backyard. Travel became our favorite past time, and, the busier we got, the more I wanted to be anywhere else than in Florida. The whirlwind of paperwork and long days at the office started taking its toll on me and my attitude towards my home town. So, every couple of months, we hopped on a plane and went to so many wonderful places that I couldn't quite understand why everybody was flocking our way, but, I thanked God that they were because, most importantly, they were giving me plenty of job security.
I guess that goes back to the old saying that "you don't know what you got until it's gone" and I am sure my attitude about Florida for the past several years has been spoiled by, what I see, as a crowded place with too many mosquitoes, unbearable humidity and no change of seasons. I do appreciate the beaches and sunshine but would gladly welcome a cool breeze and view of the mountains sometimes. However, in the year 2000 in Florida, I could see beyond my developing dislikes and really appreciate where I was in this place. That year brought me love, financial security, home owner ship, and a renewed confidence in myself. Not a bad way to start a new millennium!

Do you like where you live or where is your ideal place to escape to?

Image Credit: Reproduction of a vintage postcards found on http://www.bing.com/


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The "American Dream"

I love this picture! The quaint and well kept home, the manicured lawn, a crisp blue sky with no dark clouds, Mom in her freshly ironed dress picking flowers while little Johnny helps. You can tell it is almost time for her to place them in a crystal vase, throw on her favorite apron and whip up a nutritious, yet, satisfying dinner for her beloved husband after his hard day at work...Do those days still exist or were they just unattainable figments of our imagination from watching too many "Leave it to Beaver" episodes? I didn't know the answer after Art school, but, I loved this idea and I was ready to find, or even attempt, my own version of it.
So, let me introduce you to the "American Dream!" Humor me and try saying it at least once out loud with some level of enthusiasm, "The American Dream!" Doesn't that just sound....lovely? This dream we share as Americans may have started with our founding fathers who might have referenced it in the Declaration of Independence when they stated that it is our right to have "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." Our country and its passionate history has inspired many to believe that there is a certain spirit present within our land.
However, the term was first used in 1931 by James Truslow Adams in his book, The Epic of America. He stated: "The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." So, there you have it! The true definition of the "American Dream" by the inventor of the term! Okay, so, now what? How do you exactly get it? Nope, not one single or exact answer that I have been able to find. Well, I was definitely looking for happier first. Then, maybe better and richer would follow?
After graduating from Art school and realizing that the term "starving artist" exists for a reason, I was forced to start soul searching again. I didn't figure out a direction right away, but, I kept thinking it was time for me to find my version of the "American Dream!" Then, I got lazy and uninspired! I wasted a good couple years accomplishing nothing before I started kicking myself again.... really hard!
I finally decided I was sick of daydreaming! It was time to accomplish this goal of home ownership and fulfilling the rest of my dreams of prosperity, marriage and parenting. I had to give my life, at that time, a complete overhaul! No more dead end job, no more relationship that was going nowhere, no more excuses! I was the ripe old age of 27, for god's sake, and I was supposed to be the hell raiser that wasn't afraid to shake the boat, right?
So, I tackled one issue at a time: I started saving money for a down payment and got pre-approved for a loan, broke off an unhealthy relationship so I would be completely available for Mr. Right, quit a nowhere fast job that I had only taken to pay the bills and landed something entry level, but, it was full of potential for further growth. It took me about a year but I did it! So, when I started dating a potential Mr. Right, enjoyed my new job and the potential opportunities attached to it, and grabbed the keys to my first home I purchased all by myself, life was good! I had found the beginning to my version of the "American Dream!"
Of course, it didn't hurt that I had picked a good time to adjust my attitude! The world around me was booming! The economy was thriving, jobs were available, real estate was affordable, and, for the most part, people were happy and doing well. There was a lot of evidence of the "American Dream" and I was over the moon with this life I had finally created for myself! I prospered, like everyone else, not knowing what was slowly growing and lurking around the corner.....

There are many interpretations of the "American Dream" and I would love to hear you describe your version!

1st image credit: found on http://www.retrorenovation.com/ - Original Illustration from the National Plan Service courtesy Indiana Coal & Lumber company
2nd image credit: http://www.sewterific.com/images/PatrioticBaskets/American_Dream.JPG

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Wild Thing In All of Us


I have been talking a lot about Art and I believe imagination is one of the essential ingredients for any artist. As a viewer, it is a mixture of imagery and interpretation that makes really good art for me: A photograph with a dreamlike quality, a painting that stirs thoughts, or a wonderful story that convinces its audience to believe beyond reason -all things that encourage me to get lost in the moment.
So, today's entry is about the imagination and a beloved story that is being recognized on the big screen that captivated me as a child, and, hopefully, will unleash more chronic daydreamers.



I am the second and youngest daughter in my family. My mother has often said, "If I had you first, I don't think I would have had anymore!" I would love to interpret this as a sweet remark that meant I was a such a gift of pure perfection that there was no need for anymore. However, I know this is NOT what she is trying to say! Then, she will not hesitate to further explain that, as a young child, I was loud, difficult, and mischievous.
Despite her efforts, you could usually find me with a filthy face and long tangled hair sitting high up in a tree plotting my next great adventure. Being girly wasn't always fun but dreaming up stories to act out and getting dirty was! So, when I was around 8 or 9 and read Where The Wild Things Are for the first time, I had found a book that spoke my language!
The whole story is only ten sentences, but, what a story! Finally, no more sugar coated fairy tales with princesses in frilly ball gowns dancing around while birds chirped! I had found a book about a child who thrived on making mischief, despite the harsh consequences, and, distracted himself away from punishments with his runaway imagination! He sailed away in his mind to a land with a mysterious and wild forest and created a world without boundaries where huge monsters gave him free reign and crowned him king! (Oh, yes, then back to reality to eat his still hot supper later!) Perfect! So, it was a little far fetched, but, so was my imagination at that time!
Today, I had the incredible opportunity to share this story in the form of a movie with my two young boys. I honestly didn't know how such an imaginative adventure would translate onto the big screen and I was a little afraid the main character would look like a little brat running around wild with a bunch of goofy looking muppets. My 3 year old would not complain regardless of the outcome, but, my 5 year old would not let me away with it as easily. So, I was praying for theatrical magic to occur and it did. The movie captured the many emotions of childhood just like the book, and, how much easier it is to escape conflict while you still can.
I glanced often at my sons' faces and reveled in watching their expressions. They grinned, laughed, and believed in the story the way I did when I was that girl with the filthy face and tangled hair. It's amazing how something like that can stir up such fond memories and it gave me the chance to create new ones with my own children. It was good to be reminded about my days of chronic daydreaming and the wild things I created in my own mind and I was thrilled to see this movie encourage a new generation to unleash the wild thing in all of us once again.


Image Credit: Cover of Where the Wild Things Are, a 1963 children's book by American writer & illustrator Maurice Sendak

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Rescue Boat

So, the winds of change are blowing me in a new direction today and I am ready to spend some time looking back at my art student years...........
Mark Twain once said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Ah, what nice advice! Thank you for such an inspiring quote, Mr. Twain!
I don't know about you, but, I have never liked that unresolved feeling from a missed opportunity. In this case, it was in the form of my ship sailing away without me. So, when my second chance drifted up, it may have been smaller and not as grand as the luxury liner I first missed, but, it was just what I had been waiting for! A sturdy and well equipped rescue boat. It did not guarantee that there would be no more rough seas ahead, but, it kindly offered me everything I needed to weather any storms and all I had to do was willingly climb aboard. "Okay, that sounds fair enough to me," I thought. So, I had made a deal with the rescue boat, pushed it off the beach, and hopped right on with a gust of determination in my sails. I was ready this time, and, for quite awhile, it was nothing but smooth sailing.
However, I was eventually reminded of a very well known fact about all boats, no matter their shape or size. They all rock and rocking the boat is not always a bad thing! I have actually found it to be completely necessary sometimes. I am, most of the time, fearless, and, to be honest, safe harbors, are...well...safe! You can't always learn in life if you merely stick to your comfort zone. So, I had to rock it!!!! I threw on my life vest and held on hard as I fell back on my strengths to guide me through the rougher waters.
Up until that point, my style was strictly Fine Arts and I did well in courses like Figure Drawing and Art Appreciation. The rest was completely new to me. So, when I advanced into Graphic Design, Desktop Publishing, and Photography, I had to learn how to infuse my style into these unfamiliar forms, not just well enough to pass the classes, but, to satisfy the high expectations that I had set for myself. So, did I pull through the waves and catch the wind back in my sails?
To answer this question, I actually dug deep under my bed this morning, past the dust bunnies and mismatched shoes, and pulled out my portfolio case. I sat there quietly on the floor and flipped through my artwork with a proud grin on my face. I realized that rescue boat gave me purpose, adventure, confidence, comfort, and, that wind blew a renewed sense of energy right back into me. I did have high expectations and I did live up to them! There was some really good stuff in there and I MADE IT! What a nice feeling it is to glance threw those pages even to this day!
It has not been quite twenty years yet since I boarded that rescue boat and let the warm wind carry me from the safe harbor into the place where I made that artwork, but, a couple of more years are not going to change my mind. I know I explored, dreamed, and discovered life as Mark Twain strongly recommended! The proof is in that portfolio case!

Image Credit: Photographic Print - Rescue Boat, Atlantic City, NJ

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My "Happy Place"

The forecast for today's entry is warm and sunny with low humidity and plenty of happy thoughts (Okay, the warm and sunny part is no surprise and happy thoughts sounds great, but, the low humidity part? You don't have to tell me! I already know! It's a pile of hopeful yet unrealistic wishful thinking from this Floridian girl!)


Anyways.......



What do you think about to lift your spirits when you are having a tough times/cloudy skies kind of day? Here is a list of things that literally stop me dead in my tracks and instantly transport me to my "happy place":

Light houses - They are recognized for steering mariners away from potentially hazardous areas. Hmmm? A light house is something that is known for helping you maneuver your way around possibly dangerous or hurtful situations...maybe there is a hidden meaning in this one?? I don't know. I just really like them and have always been drawn to them.
On a recent vacation, I spotted a light house from the mainland and convinced my not as enthusiastic husband to ride to it with me. We were on ancient bicycles the Bed & Breakfast provided, it was extremely hot and muggy and we couldn't really tell how far away it actually was BUT my husband knows there is no way of steering me in another direction when we are dealing with something from my "happy place" list. So, off we went...sweating and peddling....peddling and sweating...then....click clack...SNAP! The chain on my bicycle broke! We were half way there, covered in sweat, stuck on the side of the road, and my husband was declaring, "You have got to be F***ing kidding me!," over and over again. Okay, "minor setback," I thought as I tried to play it off as no big deal. Then, when I realized he wasn't calming down, I went into the "don't even mess with me! I am a fearless warrior who cannot be stopped" mode! "We are almost there! Just be quiet, slip the chain back on, or, we will just push it to the light house!," I commanded. His expression told me without anymore expletives needed that we were not on the same page!
So, if all else fails, my last resort with him is always to flash the puppy dog eyes and the cheesy and toothy grin. "Ridiculous!," he muttered, but, he gave in and tried to fix the chain. It slipped off two more times, his hands were covered in oil and our clothes were drenched with sweat, but, I made it to that light house and I loved him for not depriving me of that moment!




Train whistles - I love hearing the sound of a train whistle. We have no tracks near our house but I have occasionally heard them far off in the distance and I always stop, listen, and smile. My dad loved trains and there is probably a certain sentiment there for that reason but its sound also has some kind of nostalgic spirit to it. At one time, it is was the premier form of travel. There was a certain hustle and bustle kind of excitement about boarding a train back in the day that still remains. "May I have your ticket, please." "Watch your step," and, the final big remark, "Last call! All aboard!".... A slow "chuga chuga" until a comfortable and steady speed is reached....Then, the true beauty of riding in a train begins! From that moment on, it is a sweet invitation to just sit back, get cozy, and gaze out a glorious window that is constantly capturing the landscape passing by.
We took our children on the "Polar Express" ride last year when we were on vacation in North Carolina. They both received their special boarding ticket, their cup of hot cocoa, and plenty of songs and good cheer before we reached the train company's version of the "North Pole." Truly magical, and, yes, I listened and smiled plenty of times to that train whistle!





Gardenias - Their fragrance is simply intoxicating to me. I can't walk by them without pausing and take a big SNIFF. We had a gardenia bush at my house when I was a child. So, there might be a connection there.
There was also a Gardenia Bush outside my old office building at my last job. When that bush bloomed, you could walk through the hallways and smell them everywhere. A bunch of us would pull the flowers off and stick them into those Styrofoam coffee cups full of water and sit them at our desks. If the phone was ringing too much, SNIFF the gardenia. If I had to walk past the stinky Men's Bathroom one more time to get to the fax machine, SNIFF SNIFF the gardenia. I have added three more responsibilities to your job description, but, the economy is so bad and you are not going to get a raise this year for any of them, SNIFF SNIFF SNIFF the gardenia! Okay, so, maybe it didn't totally take away all of my frustrations, but, it smelled AWESOME!





Dogs - I have no problem telling you why they are considered man's best friend (or woman's best friend, in my case) They are completely loyal, fiercely protective, unconditionally loving, and an endless source of companionship and laughs.They wag their tail, lick you clean, and playfully dodge at you to let you know that they are ALWAYS happy to see you. What a good feeling to come home to after a crappy day!
If you are even going to tell me that they shed, have fleas, and lick their groin and try to kiss you after!! Well, I've had boyfriends worse than that! So, bring on that adorable pooch anytime and I will not walk past that wonderful creature without a fuss.







My Wedding Song - "With a smile, you pull the deepest secrets from my heart. In all honesty, I'm speechless and I don't know where to start..." Oh, come on, you knew there had to be one mushy feel good place! I will literally stop everything, find my husband, if he is home, and make him dance with me if it comes on the radio. Okay, so, obvious question, what do I do if I am by myself when I hear my happy tune? I still swoon and sway..by myself! Oh, yes, I do.








Irish Music - Ireland will always hold a special place in my heart. My mother is from there and always made sure that her half American children knew their heritage.
She sang Irish ballads, decorated our hair with green, white and orange ribbons on St. Patrick's Day, and tried to teach us how to dance a jig. I never mastered the steps but I learned how to really enjoy the music, especially when I got older.
She took us there several times and it was always an absolute treat to be in such a beautiful country full of people with a passion for life. Their music oozes that same passion. It is fun, uplifting, and full of energy. Instant "happy place." I have no rhythm what so ever, but, I will awkwardly jump around and attempt the Irish jig any time, anywhere, and, celebrate my great heritage.




Ford Mustang - Everyone remembers their first car! You may have loved it or hated it, but, you definitely have memories of it. Now, I am no expert on cars but I LOVED mine! It was a 1975 Ford Mustang and that year represented a new era for the Mustang. It was smaller and considered much more upscale. I had the Silver Luxury upgrade model and that would have set me back a whopping $151 more in '75! Oh yeah! The cranberry colored crushed velour upholstery, sleek silver paint, matching half-vinyl top, and stand up hood ornament, I had it! Okay, it was 1987 when I got it, the eight track player was a major let down, the A/C didn't work, and that sleek paint was a little rusty, but, it had a V-8 engine. It was fast, it was cool, and, it was mine! I don't see too many on the road anymore, but, oh, how it brings me back every time I do!





Art - Paintings, photos, sculptures, architecture...It doesn't matter...any shape or form of it.....It is certainly going to get a look from me!
If there is a statue; I will gaze upon it. If there is a photo laying out; I will pick it up. Sand castle, street chalk, yep, can't walk past them either. You cannot rush me through museums or bore me with photo albums. Walk me through a historical building and I will study every inch of it. When I realized I was pretty good at drawing and I had an eye for art, it was my ultimate and never ending happy place!




I was lucky enough to go back to Art School when I left nursing. It was at a community college, not the prestigious and nationally recognized Art Institute I once got accepted to; I received a grant, not the scholarship I missed out on; I was 24, not 18 and just starting out. Did any of that matter to me? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I was finally back on track and that moment was like "seeing a helpful lighthouse, listening to a nostalgic train whistle, smelling the fragrant gardenias, being licked by an adorable pooch, swaying with my husband to our wedding song, dancing an energetic Irish jig, and driving that extremely cool and fast car once again" all rolled up into one kind of "happy place" moment!


What sights, sounds, or smells transport you to your "happy place?"


All images were found through http://www.bing.com/



















Thursday, October 8, 2009

Person at the Window

Salvador Dali is a prime example of pushing thoughts to the extreme. He was highly imaginative, and, when he combined his mind bending imagery with his brilliant artistic skills, he left behind a multitude of bizarre yet striking works of art. So, it might seem a little unusual that I have chosen to focus on one of his more simpler and not as well known paintings.
However, this image of a person gazing out the window has always captivated me. It has an incredible dreamlike quality and invites you to use your own imagination instead of Dali lending you his. It truly reflects the emotions that I was riddled with after losing my father to cancer and deciding to get off my path in nursing.
So, let's look more closely at this image (even though seeing it on such a small scale does not do it justice) and listen to my interpretation of it: Notice how your eyes are first met with a bare and dreary room. It seems as if he is trying to blend the girl right into this room by draping her body and demeanor with the same isolated and drab feeling. Then, you are immediately drawn into the serene landscape she is gazing upon. The clear blue and gentle water is an enticing mode of transportation to a more colorful and civilized land not far away. She is trapped and her only view point to that brighter and more inviting world is that window, but, her foot is arched indicating that she may be pushing herself towards it. We purposely cannot see her face and its emotion. So, we do not know if she is ready to entirely take that leap of faith.
Salvador Dali captured a moment we can all relate to....a moment of complete despair mixed with a glimpse of hope that things can only get better.
So, there I was. I was trapped, so to say, in a room just like that, but, I knew that my life had to go on somehow. I was just so unsure of what I was going to see, though, when I found my window in my gloomy room, that I almost didn't even want to look. However, it was too hard not to notice and it was too tempting to ignore any longer.
So, I slowly crept up to my window, and, took a little peek. To my surprise, I saw an old friend, still familiar and comforting, reassuringly looking back at me. I was completely over joyed that it was still there, right where I had left it, and, wanting to embrace me again. That's the thing, though, with old friends. There is an unspoken loyalty that you have with them, and, an unbiased love that never dies. So, I trusted it, without any hesitation, and, eagerly leaped out of my window and swore to never let go of it again!

Image Credit: Salvador Dali - "Person at the Window" also referred to as the "Figure at the Window" - 1925

There is an excellent website dedicated to Salvador Dali and I encourage you to visit it and take a break from reality for a little while: http://www.virtualdali.com/

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Man from Habersham

"Who is that man?," you ask. Well, let me tell you all about him:
His long journey began in a beautiful two story white house that sat up high on a hill in Habersham, Georgia. He was the oldest of three boys and he liked to play baseball. His favorite ice cream flavor was chocolate. He was smart and did well at school. He was inquisitive and always trying to figure things out. When his path took him away from that hill in Habersham, it led him to all kinds of extraordinary places. One path took him straight into World War II when our country called on him to be a soldier. Another path took him to the hustle and bustle of New York City where he worked hard in the textile industry. Then, another path led him all the way over the ocean to Ireland where he met his future wife.
The path I remember well was the one that led him to that sleepy circus town I told you about. Do you remember that bike I loved so much with the sparkly blue seat and handle bar streamers? Well, that man you see before you taught me how to ride that bike! He ran behind it, on that uneven sidewalk, holding on firmly so I wouldn't fall while I learned to balance. Yes, I have a lot of endearing memories of that man....How he gently held my hand and never let go first; How he could always read my mind without asking any questions; I can even still hear his catch phrase, "go get 'em tiger," all of those times I needed a little reassurance. He showed me how to drive a car, he taught me about the world and he encouraged me to dream. He was my dad.
On August 25, 1995, he lost his life after a courageous battle with cancer. I was one month shy of my 24th birthday and a lifetime away from handling this kind of grief. However, for him, there was finally no more suffering, no more rounds of radiation, no more intolerable pain, no more debilitating cancer....just peace.
His death was my first real lesson in heartache and the beginning of many missed opportunities. (also known as regrets) Those gentle hands that never let go first, well, they weren't there to reach out and walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. They weren't there to proudly hold his grandsons for the first time. It just didn't seem fair to lose him when there were still so many wonderful events ahead of us.
However, I have learned a couple of meaningful things from this. In a world full of dead beat dads and struggling single moms, I had an incredible father for 23 years! Unfortunately, not everyone can say that! So, that man from Habersham served me well and I am able to always keep him alive in my thoughts and through the many tales I tell his grand children about their papa.
Secondly, I realized that everything happens for a reason. I have talked about roads and where they lead us to. Well, my path in nursing led me straight to the one my dad was on when he had cancer. My training prepared me to help him down that path all the way to the end when he became too weak to travel it on his own. I chose to leave nursing after he died, but, I am forever grateful that I took that path when I did. It just took me five years to realize why!

Note: This photo of my dad is nestled in a frame on my bedside table. I chose it because I love the hat and the old Hollywood charm about it. Also, he was at the age when he left Habersham and began his many adventures. Love you and miss you dad.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Richard Simmons Anyone???

Okay, so, I will admit it! I am still mentally worn out from Monday's entry! This blogging (oops! sorry...online journal) is not easy!!! I have been continuously reaching so deep into my soul for this workout that I forgot how old and out of shape I am! So, today, I am literally dragging myself to the computer and warming up SLOWLY so I don't sprain something, and, (sob!) never write again!!
However, I must warn you now before you go any further!! If you are expecting a Jane Fonda workout from me today, stop reading now! I am literally looking and feeling more like a SPUNKY yet EMOTIONAL Richard Simmons (thanks to three cups of espresso and a good cry!) So, now that I have let it all out and have ingested enough caffeine for ten humans, it's time to cue Richard and warm up into the next phase of my life....my roaring twenties!
Let me, first of all, just throw it out there that I have always been ridiculously mature and determined at any age! So, it was no surprise to me that by the ripe old age of 19, I had graduated from nursing school, passed my state board and earned my license and landed my first nursing job (a challenge is still a challenge even if my heart wasn't really in it!) Wonderful, you say!?! Well, yes, but, it all kind of left me feeling like, "why am I in such a big rush to grow up and be so responsible?" Most of my friends were slowly transitioning into adulthood. Why couldn't I be like them and go to community college and work in the mall? Nope, not me! I was full speed ahead (Come on, Richard! Work it!! Work it!!) and I kept that feverish pace going for the next couple of years. The paychecks justified all of the hard work I had to do, but, don't forget, I was still an artist underneath.
So, when I spent three years of my career in a nursing home, I decided to inject passion and humor into everything I did just like.....Richard Simmons! I always had a soft spot for the elderly and I went above and beyond to give them quality (not just quantity) of life. I could be a nurse and a spiritual cheerleader, right!?! So, that's what I did. I went out of my way to get a smile, or even better, a laugh out of my patients. I took them outside to enjoy the sunshine and held their hands as they emotionally recalled their youth. I celebrated their birthdays and was truly saddened when they passed away. If I had to do this, I was going to do it my way and with the same flair I applied to my own life! I will "sweat to the oldies" and do the Richard Simmons! That is the attitude I put on every time I slipped into those uncomfortable uniforms!
I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and this nursing experience of mine was, unknowingly, at that time, preparing me for the next monumental event in my life. So, are you still here and dancing around with me and Richard? What's that? You are asking, "What happened? What event?" Well, you will have to wait and see! The next entry will be one of my hardest to re-live and the coffee is wearing off.
So, it is time for me to turn off the workout video, get out of these ridiculously tiny candy striped shorts before my unsightly ass cheeks pop out, and, aaaagggghhh, rest for now......(But I can't leave without saying thank you to that zany and inspiring fitness guru, Mr. Simmons, for another wonderfully wacky workout)

What do you do to help you get through your tough days?

Image Credit: http://www.freewebs.com/swiv/simmons.jpg

Monday, September 28, 2009

Every Face Has a Story

When you’re a nurse you know that every day you will touch a life or a life will touch yours. ~ Author Unknown

I had never really thought about hospitals before nursing school. Hell, I guess it's even safe to say I avoided them! To me, it was like a short stay motel where you paid a lot of money for mediocre food and amenities in exchange for having babies, getting stitches, surgery, or, worse case scenario, you never checked out, and, you still owed them lots of money!
My first day of clinical training was the day I realized it was so much more than anything I had ever perceived it to be. I donned my nursing cap, grabbed my stethoscope out of the passenger seat of my car and took a deep breath. I walked into the hospital with a pit in my stomach and an unsure look on my face. I never felt comfortable in my uniform and it was hard to look confident when I felt like I was stuck in a costume I couldn't get out of. So, from the moment I got there, I couldn't wait for my shift to end.
I entered Mr. King's room to take his vital signs. He was not conscious but I talked to him anyway and told him who I was and what I was there to do. He had requested to not be resuscitated when his time came and he passed away peacefully minutes later. I was the last person to see him alive and he had just spent his last moment here on Earth with a girl who should have been in art school, was uncomfortable in her uniform and waiting for this first day to be over. His death immediately humbled me and I tried to show him as much respect as possible. I do not know anything about him as the person he used to be, but,I have never forgotten his name.
So, maybe this place could teach me a thing or two and the lessons just kept coming, one after the other, on every floor I was sent to:
On the pediatric floor, I touched the first person I knew to be HIV positive. A group of us saw it on her chart and several students hesitated during patient assignment. I did not. I wanted her. She was 2 years old, had contracted it from her mother at birth and was admitted for a high fever. She did not fit the stereotypes at that time of it mainly being a drug addicts' and homosexuals' disease and this was exactly the way that I needed to see it, through her little eyes. Frankly, I was shocked that my fellow students had decided to become nurses and were backing away from an innocent child in an awful situation. Did they forget how we were taught that a big part of nursing is not passing judgement and showing compassion? I remembered and I didn't even choose this career like the rest of them!
In labor and delivery, I was there when one young mother died from complications after childbirth and I couldn't hide my tears when I saw her bewildered family grieve in the hallway. It was meant to be a joyous time for them, not tragic. How unfair it seemed!
In surgery, I was standing in a little corner of an operating room when surgeons amputated an old man's leg off and was absolutely amazed when they held it up and carried it away. Holy crap! He had a leg and now he doesn't! It was a lot for an 18 year old to take in!
There were plenty of nice and even humorous moments too. I once had two patients who had both given birth on the same day and both their children were fathered by the same man! "Wow!," I thought, "This could totally be on the Jerry Springer Show!"
Another day, I spent practically an entire shift rocking a newborn being put up for adoption. I was drawn to him and his story even though he had no clue of his past or his future. He was so beautiful and I give his biological mother credit for bringing him into this world despite whatever reason she chose not to keep him. I hope he was given a wonderful life by his new family.
I once gave a rather large woman a bed bath and found a few scrambled eggs and some crumbs of toast from breakfast that had landed in the folds of her stomach. She laughed and commented, "So, that's where it ended up! A little snack for later?" Sometimes humor is the best medicine!
I had never thought of the world like this before. You pass by so many people every day not knowing who they are or what is going on in their lives. This is not the case in a hospital. Their name, age, and medical history is all jotted down and what you can't read is usually written all over their faces.
By the end of my training, I learned to accept my uniform as an uncomfortable but honorable reminder of what it gave me the opportunity to experience, and, to this day, I can't drive by a hospital without thinking about what people are going through inside. What a complex world we all live in and we never know under what situation or circumstance we may end up meeting....So, remember, every face has a story and take the time to listen to one of them today.

Image Credit: Vintage World War I Poster - The Comforter, by Gordon Grant:
To recruit young women to become nurses, many of America’s most talented artists were hired to illustrate beautiful posters romanticizing nurses as young heroines. This is one of my favorites.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The "Missed Opportunity"

There are some words I have just never liked. For instance, I avoid using the closing remark,"Good bye." It sounds so final and reminds me of a few times when I have used it and have never seen some people I cared about again. So, I prefer, "see you later." It kind of throws it out there that our paths will, hopefully, cross another time. My best friend does not like the sound of the word, "blog." So, we have amusingly agreed to ban that word too, and, we refer to mine as the "online journal." It sounds a little more regal,doesn't it? Once you get in this train of thought and apply this wonderful technique, you can really change the meaning and the feeling of just about anything! So, I am preferring to call this next entry my "missed opportunity" rather than the common and not so likable word, "regret." It sounds softer but still has enough oomph in it to leave it's mark.
Upon my return home from my trip over the rainbow, I was faced with my first "missed opportunity" and it altered my life forever. As previously mentioned, I was awarded an art scholarship and it was my golden ticket to feed my soul and create a name for myself. However, like most teenagers, I hit a few distractions and did not realize the impact until I came full circle.
My scholarship was intended for admission to an art college that fall, and, I did not return from my adventure until late October. I was encouraged (told) by my parents to immediately contact the organization that had awarded me with the scholarship and see where I stood with them. I was hoping that a brief lack in judgement would be an acceptable excuse but I was harshly informed that I had not followed the terms I had agreed to and the offer was now withdrawn. OUCH! One big and painful slap of reality! So, now you have it! My first introduction to my preferred term, "missed opportunity!"
HHHMMM......now what? Well, remember those adult decisions I thought my parents were finally letting me make? It was no surprise to me they had changed their mind based on the failure of my first leap without their input. So, it was highly suggested (not open for discussion!) that I would enroll in nursing school since affording art school was now not an option.
I reluctantly handed over my paint brush, so to speak, and I was given a stethoscope as the only alternative?? It was not exactly what I had in mind, but, it was a successful and secure path my older sister had followed and I had no other prospects to throw at them. So, nursing school it was! (Sure, I'll play along for now!)
Nursing school turned out to be the equivalent of boot camp to me, but, most of the time, I felt more like Private Benjamin than Florence Nightingale! It was tough, it wasn't always pretty, and I found myself in a more difficult situation than I had ever expected . So, like a true soldier, I quickly learned to suck up the delirium I was feeling and gear up for battle. I passed everything thrown at me in the classroom but the real learning began when we started our clinical training in the hospital. No amount of written material prepared me for the lessons I learned there....
So, with that in mind, I will say, "see you later" and stay tuned for my next "online journal" about the joyous, crazy, sorrowful, unfair, hopeful and surreal world I entered at the hospital.


Do you have a word you dislike and what would you change it to??
What is your biggest "missed opportunity"??


Image credit: http://www.amazon.com/Private-Benjamin-Full-Screen-Goldie/dp/6304696558

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Yellow Brick Road

The Wizard of Oz is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year and is one of my close friend's all time favorites. So, I thought I would have a little fun with it today and use it as a theme for my little life lesson:
So, Dorothy had her trip over the rainbow and I was about to have mine except my version had no scarecrow, tin man or lion to help me find my way back. I really truly thought that little dirt path I previously mentioned was my version of the yellow brick road. So, I decided to slip on those sparkly ruby red slippers and skip down it towards my future.
If Florida was Kansas for me, then my tornado would have to be a hurricane, and, when it hit and swooped me away, my poor family didn't see it coming. I saw it as the perfect storm and they saw it as a whirlwind of confusion but it was the first adult decision they allowed me to make.
So, there I was! I was dropped into a magical land and I had felt like my black and white world had been dipped into a rainbow of amazing colors. Life was vibrant and exciting for me now. The problem with beautiful sunny days, though, is that there is always another storm brewing somewhere and you can only avoid it for so long.
Not much time had gone by before I realized that I did not have much of a life of my own in my new surroundings. My boyfriend's work schedule did not allow alot of time together, I did not have a visa to go to school or work there and the things I had left behind were starting to way heavily on my conscious. I laid there many nights pondering my decisions and desperately wishing I had a toto to keep me company, but, I didn't.
Once a week I would talk to my dad on the phone and my heart sank. His words were positive but there was always a sadness hidden in his voice. It was like hearing Auntie Em calling me. I could always hear his unspoken love and concern and I knew he wanted me just to come back.
So, the further I got down that bright, but, not so cheery yellow brick road, the more I started admitting that my ruby red slippers were just too big for me to fill and that wicked witch, well, she was starting to circle me and Oz was nowhere in sight! I needed a routine, self worth and a purpose like that other story needed a brain, a heart and courage.
So, what is a girl to do when she has bitten off more than she can chew? You guessed it! I started tapping those big, clunky, and not so sparkly heels harder and faster and told my boyfriend that I wanted to go back.
There is nothing wrong with chasing dreams over the rainbow, but, there is no guarantee that the grass will be greener on the other side. So, just remember, if you decide to take that little trip, you might land in a place where there is no easy way back like I did.
Dorothy was right....There is no place like home!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Burst of Freedom & the Ultimate Detour

Life has a way of becoming so predictable and confining that I have always found a change liberating! Quitting a job you despise, getting out of a relationship that is suffocating you, well, admit it, it's just a huge sigh of relief! Ah, nothing beats that burst of freedom! My first taste of it came when I graduated after twelve long years of Catholic School.
Now don't get me wrong. I always was and will be forever grateful for the huge financial burden my parents swallowed every year to provide me with an excellent education, but, I always saw my life as a catholic school girl to be somewhat pampered and unrealistic. We weren't beaten with rulers and God wasn't forced down our throats, but, it was a consistently strict environment with a lot of expectations. Were were always under very watchful and judgemental eyes and it was their daily mission to make us studious, driven, cooperative, respectful, and pure. Now, I realize metal detectors, school resource officers and gangs is not a happy alternative, but, it was still a tall order for teenagers.
It also wouldn't be high school if you didn't have cliques. Every school has them and mine was no exception. However, when you are surrounded by 'privileged' teens and you don't live a 'privileged' life, it is not always easy to figure out where you fit in.
I didn't drive a BMW but I had a cool car. I wasn't well known but I was friends with everybody. I wasn't a size two but I always had a boyfriend. I wasn't athletic but I still had 'team spirit'. I wasn't extremely smart but I had a decent GPA. So, what was I? Rich, popular, prom queen, valedictorian, cheer leader?? Absolutely none of the above, but, I did find my niche within a place where they all existed but the stereotypes were left at the door. The open minded and non judgemental world of Art.
You see, I was creative and that is probably the way that I will be remembered. My high school art classes encouraged me to be myself and I let my guard down and was amazed at what came out. It was also a place where I rubbed elbows with the misfits, jocks, snobs, and free spirits, but, it was our Breakfast Club, so, to say, where you could be yourself and pour your soul out and was praised for it. Most of them slipped back into their other personas when they walked out of that room but I saw a different side of them and I have learned to this day to never judge a book by it's cover as a result of those classes.
So, back to me. Peak in that window over there and look off to the left by the door. That was me in the Art room every spare moment I had. That corner of the room is where I was captured and drawn in (no pun intended!) I had discovered a warm and fuzzy place where I could breathe and shine, get lost deep in thought and also clear my mind. Paint, pastels, pencils, watercolor, I did it all and well enough to get noticed. Local and state competitions, I won them both; Best in show, that was my reward; "Most Artistic," that was my senior notable. So, it seemed that I had found my chosen path and when I was awarded a scholarship and accepted into a nationally recognized art college, the pressure was off me. (for now)
This is where I hit my ultimate fork in the road. If you are not familiar with the very poignant poem, "The Road Not Taken," By Robert Frost, this is a perfect moment to pause and read it. I have traced my way back to that poem many times throughout my life and applied many interpretations of it to this moment I am going to explain.
I have failed to mention the one other road I was supposed to be taking. I was in love with a boy but not just any boy. He was from another country and had spent the last couple of years travelling back and forth so we could be together until I finished school. I had made a promise to join him after high school but that agenda was something I had failed to admit to my parents, college, my friends or even myself sometimes.
So, where does the burst of freedom come in? I'll tell you. The very second I released my graduation cap and watched it fly up in the air. It took exactly twelve years to earn that moment and one second to set me free from it all. I was thrust into this exciting new world and I wanted to keep that feeling forever. Art had taught me to create, believe, and express which are similar emotions your heart flourishes in. Right? So, wouldn't college wait for me for one more year if I took a just as wonderful detour?
I knew the answer and abruptly decided that I would not take one step further down my chosen path with its perfectly straight and smooth, illustrious, and, yet, predictable surface. The crooked dirt path with it's uncertain destination was charming, deserving and unpredictable.
As Robert Frost so deeply pointed out, I will leave you for now at my crossroads with his words which is how I would have described it if he hadn't beat me to it:
"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

Which road did you travel and has it made all the difference??

Note: a link to Robert Frost "The Road Not Taken" for your reading pleasure -
http://www.bartleby.com/119/1.html